Saturday, February 27, 2010

The First Line

We have maintained a long distance friendship with a couple who lives in New England. I have known them forty years, since we were neighbors in Alaska. Bill met them twenty-years ago, and the guys hit it off like brothers. We have vacationed together and visited one another's homes for two decades. It is pleasant and fun.

But when the phone rings every Saturday morning, either on our end here in St. Louis or in Boston, I know exactly what the first line is going to be depending on which of our husbands initiated the call. "Those damned Republicans/Democrats!"

The good old boys have been on the phone for half an hour debating poiltics, jabbing one another, one upping the other guy, raising their voices. It's like a weekly jolt of adrenaline for them. By the end of their conversation, they almost sound concillatory, and I chuckle at their spat. I envision these two codgers walking a tight rope, arms outstretched straddling the political fence, trying their damndest not to splat on the wrong side.

My vision for humanity: outstretched arms prepared for a warm greeting, instead of fists balled, words snarled, punches hurled because of another person's political party, sexual persausion, ethnicity, religion ... My hope is for peace across the world.

Now, I have an offering for you writers. Check out The First Line Literary Magazine and see what you can do with this first line: Paul and Miriam Kaufman met the old fashioned way.

No entry fee and they pay $20 and copy of the book if your entry wins. What have you got to lose? Deadline May 1st.

Do a random act of kindness today. Hug someone unexpectedly. Say something positive. A smile is like a yawn.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cold-Cold, as in freezing and hacking

Oh good grief! I am taking the adage, starve a fever; feed a cold to extremes. In earnest I have devoured everything in site. At 4:00 a.m. I found a note on the counter next to the coffee pot: A fresh pot of coffee will brew for my honey at 5:00 a.m. I probably would have resisted hitting the brew button until 5, but I spied the clear plastic disposable container with half a cheese danish and an entire chocolate chip danish from last night. I started with a sliver of cheese danish as the coffee brewed. Then another sliver, and one more. Filled a soup mug with hot coffee and cut a chunk of chocolate delight and slowly devoured it at the computer. I drained the coffe pot in two hours, and then hubby woke up. "You want breakfast? You know what they say, starve a fever..." So, I plopped two sausage links in the pan, fried up eggs and plunked whopper (no kidding) English muffins in the toaster and downed that too. It is now an hour later and that Cutie in the kitchen is still tempting me. Cutie as in tiny little deliciously sweet orange/nectarine. It's going to be a long day. Hack-hack, sniffle, sneeze, honk! Yesterday at school I combined two beverages in my tall plastic Coke glass, Sprite and grape juice. Holy moly, talk about a jolt; it tasted like wine. Today I think I'll stick with hot tea. Uh, and one more thing. We have a gift certificate for a restaurant that expires tonight, so what the heck...starve a fever. I don't have one, so I'm going feed this damn cold!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Be a trail blazer

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I've been thinking about the road less traveled and taking the high road...all those metaphors for achieving. You can't get far if you don't take the steps. We writers get comfortable in a particular genre. We compete with other like-writers or with ourselves, and sometimes we just travel in the ruts. Dare to blaze a new trail today. If you are not a poet, try to write a poem.

This silly poem was inspired by two different guys I saw at two different places wearing thongs (the foot wear)with dress slacks on a wintry day when there was snow on the ground. At first, I was critical, and then I thought, why not?

The Love Affair's Over
Linda O'Connell

I'm sad that it's over.
I'm sorry we're through.
But you're not worth the agony;
this is long overdue.

With you, I felt sexy,
got noticed in a crowd.
You took me to fine places.
With you, I stood proud.

I'll admit you still tempt me,
but I've had enough.
You've cost me a fortune, and
I can't deal with your stuff!

I'm older and wiser.
I've paid my dues.
I'm in love with my flip-flops
good-bye, high-heeled shoes.

Kick up (or off) your heels today!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Great Discoveries

Don't you just love finding things? I discover the best treasures in thrift shops, or sitting at the curb, in books, on line, everywhere! You have to be on the lookout.

I just found a writer's goldmine and want to share it with you. Horse Publishing)is a website that posts all of the newly launched magazines. Check it out and pitch a query to a publication that piques your interest.

My find this week is THE A.D.D. Book by William Sears, M.D. and Lynda Thompson, Ph.D. Since I am an early childhood teacher, this book contains all sorts of relevant information. It's a treasure to me because it is an uncorrected advance proof with editorial notations from Little, Brown and Company, Publishers; 34 Beacon Street; Boston, Massachusetts. I assume that this book was probably in the hands of one of the coauthors or at least the editor whose adhesive label with her name and phone number appears on the top left hand corner.

The thrift store charges a percentage according to the sticker price of the books. Because this book was a galley proof, and there was no official sticker price other than the suggested retail price TYPED on the cover ($37.95) I bought this book for 65cents.

Do tell me about one of your unexpected finds or treasured discoveries; it doesn't have to be literary.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Poetry and you!

This poem was published in Spring '08 in a beautiful 52 page slick magazine titled, MOM WRITER'S LITERARY MAGAZINE.

First Dance
by Linda O'Connell

Chubby little legs stuffed like sausages in pink tights.
Itchy ruffled tutu cinched at waist.
She shuffles down the hall
carrying her ballet slippers,

Takes the stage
in ruby red lipstick and grandma-rouged cheeks,
bats her eyes, stomps her feet,
twists, turns, twirls, swoops, sways and sings.

She pirouettes,
spins further and further
out of my orbit
already on her way to independence.

One day she'll dance on my heart
shuffle-slide away and
boogie all night long,
but for now, she's my ballerina baby.

I am an untrained poet. I have been told that my poetry is called prose poetry or free verse. It is story telling. Anyone can do it. You don't have to worry about rhyming words. But try to feel the rhythm of your words. Give it a try. Keep it concise. Have fun, and then present your poem to someone you love. That is what I did with the following poem I wrote for my honey and it won the Metro Arts in Transit, Poetry in Motion Contest last year at this time. My poem (printed on a gorgoeus red and black poster) rode the rails and avenues of St. Louis for a year, posted in Metro Link trains and Metro buses.

In Bloom
by Linda O'Connell

Sunbeams bounce off crystal vase,
splay rainbows; around the room
I dance with outstretched arms
and shed a tear of glee.

Single rose with sun-tinged blush,
passion red it glimmers, ablaze
with innuendo; radiant in love,I waltz
with yesterday's memory.

Note the placement of the semi colons. You can change the entire meaning by changing the punctuation. I teach a senior writer's creative writing class and they all discovered this when I removed all punctuation and asked them to punctuate. Have fun and then submit a poem. Have confidence in yourself. To tell you the truth, when I submitted this, I thought it was sophomoric and they would reject it. When I opened the envelope standing in the driveway at my mailbox, I knew not to get excited; it was in my SASE. When I read the word CONGRATULATIONS! I danced like no one was watching and screeched like a banshee waving the acceptance in the air ... as our new non-English speaking Bosnian neighbors looked on wide-eyed. I know that is an overused word, but let me assure you, these older folks WERE wide-eyed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Double the recipe, double the luck!

I received an acceptance from Mid River's Review on two of my poems. I'm jumping for joy and if I had some yeast dough rising, I'd be kneading it about now. But I had a bad experience baking bread once. My husband doesn't understand why I don't want a bread machine. Let me tell you...

In the fall of 1969 I was a young military wife living in a remote Alaska town trying to survive on a shoe string budget. A loaf of bread at that time cost $1.59, back when in the lower 48 you could buy five loaves for a buck. One day towards the end of the month when we were as broke as a our ramschakle trailer, my next door neighbor, Sheila and I pooled our pennies and walked to the general store to purchase a double packet of dry yeast. She wanted to show me how to bake homemade bread. We salivated at the thought of warm bread oozing with butter. We combined the contents of our nearly empty flour canisters and decided to double the yeast so we'd have a double loaf, one for her and one for me.

We took turns kneading the mass of moist dough. We played a game of Yahtzee and watched the dough rise to perfection, then we pounded it a second time. We covered it with a damp towel to rise again, and then we took the shortcut and trekked single file through the woods where the buffalo and moose roamed. We visited other army wives living nearby. Three hours later we remembered the bread dough. We hurried home, confident that we had enough time to bake the bread and surprise our husbands. The surprise was on us!

We darted into the tiny trailer kitchen and gasped in disbelief. The MASSIVE DOUGH had swollen to incredible proportion, crept out of the bowl onto the table and was slinking towards the edge. Speechless, we looked at one another and then back at the sticky blob covered with two yellow ducky diaper pins, the empty yeast packet, three pennies, one nickel, copper bobby pins from my friend's red hair and the contents of her husband's ashtray. When we saw three of our red Yahtzee dice embedded in the blob we laughed uncontrollably.

We buried the mass of massive dough in the bottom of the trash barrel. Back then the landlord burned the trash on the weekend. Sheila and I worried that it would rise to great heights when the match was tossed. We didn't wait around to see.

Homemade bread? No thank you, unless YOU are baking.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Frozen Precip

Okay folks, on the evening news the local weatherman remarked that there would be flurries Friday into Saturday. I knew that. I was not thrilled, but if it has to be snow, I'd rather have flurries. Then it was as if he smacked me in the face with a snowball...another snowfall is coming Monday. Are you kidding me!

WINTER or Why DID they have to wake that groundhog?
by Linda O'Connell

I can’t stay up past sundown. I’m wide awake at three.
All day I am lethargic; I know what’s wrong with me.
I ache for old friend sunshine which eases all my pain.
I hate precipitation, but I’d welcome springtime rain.
I need a break from frigid; this deep freeze has me down.
I’m tired of salt brine on my car and pot holes all around.
I’m sick and tired of shivering,I have goosebumps head to toe.
Just when I think it's warming, they call for one more snow.
I’m tired of wearing socks to bed and nightgowns past my knees.
I am sick and tired of winter; hurry springtime, please!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Here's how my writing paid off 16 years ago

The other day my husband read what I wrote for a contest about my morning routine. I begin my day with a prayer that ends, "and please-please let my husband sleep another hour so I can write in peace and quiet." He is taking it quite literally. I hear him stirring in the bedroom, biding his time, waiting until the half-hour before he makes his appearance. On this, our wedding anniversary and also Valentine's Day, he is giving me a gift that I truly appreciate, time to write. Of course I am writing a love note to him about the three men I love: the child who resides inside the big hulk, the centered man who makes me feel loved and who helps me clearly see both sides of any issue, and the paw-paw who demonstrates over and over how every man should treat women and children.

Some of you know that my writing is responsible for my second and third wedding (to this same man I've been with for twenty-one years. Sixteen years ago, I wrote a parody song for a radio contest and won a complete Valentine's Day wedding package. We were married in the glorious Grand Hall(upstairs)at Union Station with ninety-seven other couples. It was televised and broadcast live on Y 98, and also over the intercom at the middle school where I worked at the time.

Bill and I had scheduled our wedding for April; my best friend was travelling from Boston to be maid of honor and her husband was best man. So, although we married on 2/14/94, we married again in April. Actually, Sheila and Bruce were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, so we all repeated our vows again in the presence of family and friends.

Here are two of the verses I can still remember to the parody song I wrote.
Tune: He Ain't Got a Barrel of Money

Oh, he ain't got a barrel of money, he might have a big old tummy,
but we'll travel through life; I'll be this man's wife, standing side by side.

Oh, he likes his ice cream and candy, but I think this big guy's just dandy;
young love's exciting and new, ours is like an old shoe...I love my big old guy!

So, writers out there, think out of the box. You never know where your writing will take you or how it will pay off!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Call for Science Fiction

I can't get into science fiction; maybe that's because my husband has the TV tuned to the SciFi Channel 24/7, but for you sci-fi writers out there, Last Man Anthology is seeking submissions. If you can write an apocalyptic epic in 1,500-1,888 words, or you know of someone who is interested in this genre, check out

When I was in high school the teacher assigned this topic: last person on earth in the year 2000. Ha! Some days I feel like the last "sensible" person on earth. I have run into some doozies lately. By the way, I got the only A in the class.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

's not fair! least 75! sneezes this afternoon out of the same little girl. And when she sneezed she spewwwwwed. Everytime I "EWWWed!" she giggled uncontrollably. She is so CUTE!

It is a matter of time before the entire school and I have the crud. I Cloroxed and Lysoled everything. I have used so much antibacterial soap today, even my good bacteria is gone. But what can I do? The germs are out there and I love teaching little children. I will lead them into the future and give them a great start, but I refuse to hold their hands or touch their sleeves which they use for nasal discharge, okay SNOT! I can handle any body fluid but snot. Ugh.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Up in the morning and out of bed...

It's a little after 9:00 and I just returned from St. Louis Writer's Guild open mic at Wired Coffee. As always a lively bunch of readers with diverse genres made the listening fun. A couple of readers went high-tech and read from their lap tops. One computer crashed and the batteries in the other one slowly drained. There is something to be said for hard copy and having paper in hand to read from.

I read a humorous essay about my morning routine. I actually wrote this piece for an older women's magazine contest, so I can't reveal too much right now. But let's just say it got a few chuckles and positive comments. Maybe it was the remark about when the hubby wakes and the house comes alive with sight, sound and smell...some less desirable than others. After the contest, I will post it on the blog. I'll bet it would make Erma Bombeck smile.

What is it you do the first thing each morning besides rush to the bathroom? Do you have a routine? My routine begins in bed when I am lying still. Once my eyes open, regardless of time, my mind clicks on and there is no going back to sleep.

Kid quip today; 3 yr old girl: "Xavier likes me because I am a love muffin." Oh to have such high self-esteem. In all my years I've never tagged myself as such.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A litle snirt doesn't compare

If the weather forecasters are correct we'll be looking at snirt in a few days, you know, dirty snow. I think new-fallen fluffy snow is beautiful, for a day. It stills the town, insulates us in our homes, gives us pause to write, journal, reflect, and in my case, eat. I graze when I am trapped indoors.

I'm not afraid of the predicted four-five inches of snow on the way. I lived in Alaska in 1969, and the winter was rather mild, a few snowfalls, not a lot of accumulating snow. We experienced one blizzard, and I mean I experienced it. That night as the blizzard fiercely raged, there was a knock on the door about 10:00 p.m. A soldier stood in the biting wind, the furry hood of his army parka zipped in a tight circle. The blackness of his face blended with the pitch dark night. I couldn't tell it was Charles Washington until he came indoors and begged us to drive him to the airport, 105 miles away in Fairbanks. He told us his wife was scheduled for emergency surgery, and he had to get home.

We foolishly agreed. That night we inched our way on a snowpacked, ice covered two lane highway in a blinding blizzard. Three and ahalf hours later, when we arrived in Fairbanks we were exhausted and also broke, no money for a hotel, no credit card, nothing but a few bucks for gasoline. Charles bought tire chains for the car, but when it's fifty below zero, and you can only get one on, and you're young, you think that one will suffice. After dropping Charles at the airport, we drove to the army base in town. They had no provision for soldier's dependents, would not allow wives to stay in the barracks, but offered my ex a bed. He was due for madatory duty at 7:00 a.m. so we headed back, exhausted. On our return trip, we got stuck on an icy mountain road, fifty feet from the top. After several attempts of reversing down the mountain and trying to get enough traction to make it over the top, we got stuck. My ex applied his full weight to the brake pedal, yet every so often the '60 Chevy would jerk and slide nearer and nearer to the edge of the cliff. No guardrails. Periodically I'd hold my breath then whisper a prayer as that hunk of metal inched closer and closer. We had a full tank of gas and a warm heater. I was six months pregnant and all we had in the car was a can of Coke. At 3:00 a.m. I came up with a bright idea; immediately my ex vetoed it. Slowly and with as little movement as possible, I reached into the back seat for that soda. I opened the car door and held tight as my feet went out from under me. I clung to the rear quarter panel, crept on my knees, and I prayed we wouldn't be rear ended by a semi. During the night, two had passed us, one from the rear and one head on, but neither could stop to assist. I regained my balance and made my way to the passenger side rear tire. I poured that can of Coke behind the wheel and clawed my way back into the car, hoping that my movement wouldn't cause the car to lurch. "Reverse and gun it!" I yelled. My ex took his foot off the brake and the car cocked straight backwards instead of sideways. The right rear wheel hit that saucer-sized patch of pavement melted by the Coke. He floored the accelerator. The engine whined, the tires spun, and finally gripped that small patch of bare asphalt. The chain dug away at that patch of ice and exposed more of the pavement. I prayed aloud as we finally crested that mountain after being stranded for almost two hours.

The most outstanding thing that I remember is on the other side of the mountain, the blizzard completely susbsided, the stillness was eerie; the canopy of stars and the blanket of white lit up the land like daybreak. It was a surreal moment, an unbelievable experience as the car thumped-thumped-thumped, that one tire chain music to my ears. We made it home in time for my ex to climb into his winter woolen fatigues and drive to Ft. Greely to report for duty.

Oh, when you're young and dumb! My parents used to say, "God watches over ignorant and foolish people." I know He was with us that night.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Contest, Based on the Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The deadline is looming: Wednesday, 2/10/10, so get your submission in the mailbox for the 2010 Big Read Adult Writing Contest. The first place winner will be published in the Post-Dispatch. Write an essay of 250-1,000words in response to the question, How do you think the American childhood has and hasn't changed since the 1840's? There is also a story writing contest in which you can enter an original story in the writing style of Mark Twain.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Anthology call for submission

We have all been positively influenced by an action, deed or message from a relative, friend, teacher, public figure or even a stranger. Now is your chance to thank them publicly. Wouldn't it be wonderful to put a book in their hands which contains your heartfelt story about THEM?

Whispering Angel Books, published by Lynn C. Johnston is seeking stories and poetry for an upcoming anthology titled Living Lessons. We have all been touched directly or influenced indirectly by someone who has impacted our lives and taught us a positive life lesson. Even writers who procrastinate, have time to come up with a poem or essay. The deadline is May 31, 2010. There is no compensation for your work, other than one free copy of the anthology and the satisfaction of knowing that your words have impacted other readers.

If your story is accepted, you can chalk up another publication credit.
Rights remain with the writers. A portion of the proceeds from Whispering Angel Books is contributed to the American Red Cross designated for the Haiti Earthquake relief effort. then click on Submit Your Work and read the guidelines.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Don't tease me; I'm not in the mood. FUNdraiser

I don't know about you, but I despise teasers: "Accumulating snow; I'll have the details for you later." I don't want to hear THAT you are going to tell me something, just tell me. I have a friend who calls and leaves teasers: "Guess WHO I ran into today? Call me." A relative: "Guess what! Give me a call." For goodness sakes, just TELL ME if you are already talking, emailing or texting; don't make me guess or wait. I'm frustrated with newscasters, bloggers, friends and family members who do this. Maybe I am frustrated with the thought of more snow. That danged groundhog.

The small, private, self-supporting early childhood center where I work (a not for profit) is doing a fundraiser in May and seeking donations for a silent auction. If you know of any individual/business/corporation that would be willing to make a tax- deductible monetary donation,or donate gift certificates, sporting event tickets product or services ie:(hair cut/manicure/massage/spa, or anything else you can think of, please let me know. Our preschool is a one-of-a-kind in the nation, established in 2002 for children with life-threatening food allergies, although we serve children who do not have food allergies. You can check us out Our Little School 5516 So Kingshighway, on line at You can see photos of my students and me in class.

Tickets for the Aller-tini, a cocktail party at SqWires will be May 21st. Tickets $25 Please, will you pass this info on? Thank you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.
~John Ruskin

This is especially true with writing. I just submitted a 2,000 word personal narrative to Voices of Alzheimers, LaChance Publishing. My intent of course was publication, but the end result isn't as important now. In writing this piece, I relived a heart wrenching experience and was able to work through some grief. I have become stronger by having written it.

In teaching preschoolers, although I do toil, I am rewarded with satisfaction of witnessing their growth, and I get at least a laugh a day from a student's quip. Yesterday a five year old boy was inviting others to his house. "If you see a golden retriever that doesn't listen, then you know you're at my house."

Monday, February 1, 2010

To skate or not to skate

So last evening I debated about stuffing my size sevens into a pair of skates. I stood at the counter and tested out a size six narrow. My right foot zoomed off without the rest of me, and I suddenly remembered the dream Bill had: I was sitting on the floor, one leg forward and the other back; a crowd of people watching and taking bets on how long I could sit that way.

So, I reckoned with myself. Wearing anything on my feet that tight would give me corns or at least blisters. No thank you sir, a bigger size won't help; the wheels are just too slippery. Yeah, I chickened out. I take calcium; I have osteopenia. I uh, I well, I sat and watched my grandson Nicholas celebrate his 8th birthday with classmates and family. That kid can zip around like a pro, and he pops right back up when he splats. Me, I would have been down for the count and all bets would have been on.

I was married for twenty-five years, and in all those years, I can't recall my kids' dad ever roller skating. Why he decided last night to give it his best shot is a matter of conjecture. He held onto the sidewalls and made his way around the rink. As he exited, he came off the rink with his arms outstretched, flailing, his knees buckling, his feet about to slide out from under him.

I recognized that helpless feeling.